Ordinance clears way for body piercing in Forest Park

By Ed Brock

Michael Lanier wanted to take up his old business of poking holes in people, so he went to the city of Forest Park for a license.

But 38-year-old Lanier, a registered body-piercing artist since 1992, was told no when he applied for the license last October.

"At that point (a city employee) said she wasn't aware of any city ordinance that would allow or disallow (body piercing,)" Lanier said.

So Lanier had to wait several months for the city to construct an ordinance that regulated the business in order to obtain a license. At the April 18 meeting Lanier's wait came to an end.

"First of next week I'll probably go get it," Lanier said.

Most recently Lanier has been working at his mother's business, BJ's Hair Affair on Forest Parkway, and he plans to operate his body-piercing business from there as well. From 2000 to 2001 he had his own piercing studio in Peachtree Market Peddlers in McDonough, and he is a member of the Association of Professional Piercers.

His clients are primarily college-age females who come to him to have various body parts pierced, though ears are the most common.

"Bellybuttons are a real popular item," Lanier said.

Lanier will have some competition. Ink Wizard Tattoos on Main Street also offers body piercing, said employee Lee Lewis.

"We've been here for 11 years," Lewis said.

One of Lewis' customers, 22-year-old Scott Tedford of Riverdale, said it's the pain that draws him to getting pierced.

"It's like entertainment. It's like getting that edge," Tedford said.

Lewis said piercing releases the body's endorphins, natural pain killers that can lead to calming sensations. His customers come to him for more than just piercings, they come for relief from any variety of problems in their life or just for the rush.

And the art has been around for centuries.

"It's almost like being a shaman," Lewis said. "It's a ritual. It's holy."

A detective with the city did go to Ink Wizard Tattoos in October or November and told Lewis he needed to get a license. Lewis called City Hall and ran into the same problem Lanier discovered.

"Basically he told me to get something that they didn't even offer," Lewis said.

Ink Wizard should be grandfathered in, said Forest Park Finance Director Mike Blandenburg, but will need to get a permit when the business license is up for renewal. Passing the ordinance does not mean that the city either approves or disapproves of piercing in general, Blandenburg said, but the ordinance is necessary to assure the quality of the service.

"If a business wanted to force the issue and come in we would not have regulations in place (without the ordinance,)" Blandenburg said.

Forest Park sought input from other Clayton County municipalities when developing its ordinance, Blandenburg said.

Under the new regulations, body piercing establishments, artists and operators (operators are people who operate a body-piercing establishment but aren't necessarily doing the piercing) must apply to the city's police department for a permit. Artists and operators must be at least 18 years old, undergo a criminal background check and submit photographs of themselves.

They also must be physically and mentally sound, have good eyesight and be free of infectious diseases that can be communicated through openings in human skin.

People under 18 are not allowed to get a piercing without a parent or guardian present unless they have notarized written permission from their parent or guardian. No piercings can be performed on a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol or otherwise of "unsound mind."

There are further restrictions on the kinds of jewelry that can be used in the initial piercings and the requirements for sterilization of equipment used in the piercings is also defined. Body piercing establishments won't be allowed in residential zones, and a business license is also required. The cost of the permit is $50.